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Child Support Frequently Asked Questions

Child Support FAQs

How is child support calculated?

The Child Support Guidelines calculate the base amount of child support by taking the payor parent’s annual income, and the number of children for whom support is being paid, and using those two factors to determine the percentage of the payor’s income that will be ordered as child support.

That base amount is referred to as the “Table amount,” after the tables in the Child Support Guidelines that list the applicable support amounts for various income levels and numbers of children.

On top of the Table amount may be added special or extraordinary expenses, often called “section 7 expenses” because they are set out in section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines. These expenses include things like daycare, private tutoring, or health care and dental expenses. These section 7 expenses are divided between the parents, with each parent paying in proportion to his or her income.

For more detailed information on how child support is calculated, including specific instances in which courts can depart from the above method of calculation, see the article Calculating Child Support.

Do I have to pay for my kids’ university?

In general, it is accepted that a child continues to be a child of the marriage or of the common-law relationship during their first post-secondary degree. You therefore will likely have to pay for part of your children’s university education if you are able to.

In determining the amount of support for children over the age of majority, the court does have discretion to deviate from the Table amount, and can instead award “the amount that it considers appropriate, having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each spouse to contribute to the support of the child” (Guidelines, s. 3(2)). This means that in determining the appropriate level of child support, the court can consider both parents’ incomes, as well as the child’s own ability to support herself, for example by working part time during the school year, or during the summers.

How can I change my child support?

Either parent can apply to vary (change) a child support order made under the Family Law Act provided 6 months have elapsed since the order was made or the court last dealt with an application to vary. For child support orders made under the Divorce Act, either parent can apply to vary the order at any time.

However, in order to succeed in their application to vary an order under either Act, the parent applying must show that there has been a change in circumstances that would result in a different support order. If the circumstances of the support payor have changed—for example an increase or decrease in income—or child custody arrangements have changed, this will affect child support payments.

For more information, see the article Changing Child Support.

Do I have to go to court?

Often parents can agree on custody and support issues, either between themselves or through mediation or arbitration, and prefer not to go to court. However, for matters of child support in particular, a court order can be very important for both parties. You and your spouse can negotiate matters between yourselves, or with the help of lawyers or a mediator, and then apply for a court order to reflect the content of your agreement.

Child support orders are automatically managed and enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which can take a variety of actions to enforce support orders if support is not being paid, such as garnishing the payor’s income, pension, or employment insurance, suspending his or her driver’s license, or registering a lien on any personal property. See the article Enforcing Child Support for more information.

Having payment made through FRO also offers both parties the security of knowing there is an accurate record of support payments.

A court order also provides both parties with a record and something to rely on.

An alternative to court that still offers some security to both parties is the signing of a separation agreement. That agreement can then be registered with FRO, which will enforce support obligations as if they were the subject of a court order.

See the article The Importance of a Court Order for more information.

Is child support taxable?

No, child support payments are not taxed. The support recipient does not include the child support as taxable income on his or her tax returns. Child support payments are also not deductible for the paying parent. Child support comes out of the payor’s after-tax income.

When do my child support requirements end?

The answer to this question depends on whether the application for child support was made under the Family Law Act (for couples who were never married, or who are separating but not pursuing a divorce) or as part of a divorce proceeding under the Divorce Act (for couples who are seeking a divorce), because these two acts have different definitions of who is a “child” for support purposes.

Under both Acts, your support obligations will end if your child “withdraws” as a child of the marriage—in other words, if he or she moves out of the family home and becomes self-sufficient. Your support obligations will likely also end once your child is over the age of majority, unless he or she is in school full-time, in which case you may still be obligated to pay support. That obligation will likely cease after your child has completed a post-secondary degree.

Under the Divorce Act, however, if your child is over the age of majority but unable to withdraw as a child of the marriage because of illness or disability, you will continue to have an obligation to pay child support. Under the Family Law Act, in contrast, you would no longer be obligated to support that child once he or she is no longer a minor.

Under the Family Law Act, your support obligation also ends if your child marries, even if your child is still a minor at that time. That is not the case under the Divorce Act.

If my spouse does not pay child support, can I withhold access to the children?

No, you cannot. A parent’s right to see their child, and a child’s right to have contact with their parent, exist independently of any support obligation. While it may be tempting to use your child as leverage in an attempt to enforce a support order, there are other enforcement mechanisms in place. See the article Enforcing Child Support for more information.

Remember that it is never good for children to be placed in the middle of a dispute between parents, and that children have rights with respect to their access parent that the custodial parent is not entitled to interfere with.

What legal remedies are available to me if my spouse is not paying child support?

If your spouse is not paying child support and that child support award is part of a court order, or a separation agreement filed with the courts, then your support order will be registered with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). That office is in place to enforce support orders. In fact, it is the responsibility of FRO to collect and enforce support.

If your child support agreement is not filed with the courts, before you can have it enforced by FRO you must file it with the courts. In order to do so, you would file a Form 26B along with a copy of your domestic agreement. See the Child Support Forms section for more information.

See the article Enforcing Child Support for more information on how to contact FRO, their various enforcement methods, and what will happen if your spouse continues to miss payments.

If we lived common law, will I have to pay child support?

Yes. In Ontario, child support obligations fall upon all parents, including common-law parents. Canada recognizes that the choice to marry is a personal choice. However, being a parent to a child results in a positive obligation to support that child, whether you are married to the child’s other parent or not. Parents for the purposes of child support include married, common law, estranged, biological, and adoptive parents.

If we lived common law and the children were not my biological children, will I have to pay child support?

You may have to pay support for children that are not yours biologically. Under the Divorce Act (which applies to married spouses who are pursuing a divorce) and the Family Law Act (which applies to common-law parents and to married parents who are separating, but not seeking divorce), a parent can be obligated to pay child support for a child that they have demonstrated an intention to treat as their own, or for whom they are “standing in the place of a parent.”

Whether or not this is the case in your situation will have to be determined on the individual facts of your case. Courts look to see whether you engaged in typical parental activities with the child, participated in daily routines, took on childcare responsibilities, contributed financially to the child’s care, and generally held yourself out to others as a parent to the child.